Raiders hope to bend COVID rules for Sonny Bill Williams’ return
Raiders hope to bend COVID rules for Sonny Bill Williams’ return

Plot to bend COVID rules for Sonny Bill Williams

It could be the ACT Government bill for Sonny Bill.

Canberra will lobby the ACT Government on Monday to increase GIO Stadium's crowd capacity to 50 per cent for Sonny Bill Williams' massive comeback match against the Raiders this Saturday night.

GIO Stadium is currently permitted to hold 3000 fans but Canberra hope that figure can be increased to 6000, 9000 or even bumped up to 12,000 for Williams' much-anticipated return to the NRL.

 

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Raiders chief executive Don Furner will contact ACT chief health officer, Dr Kerryn Coleman, to seek a crowd increase.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson is expected to name Williams in his 17-man squad when the official team list is released on Tuesday afternoon.

The Daily Telegraph reached out to Robinson on Sunday to ask how he would use Williams' but the coach only said: "Won't be going through it."

Aside from the attraction of Williams, Saturday's match doubles as a grand final rematch.

The ACT Brumbies are also expected to ask Government authorities for an inflated crowd capacity at GIO Stadium for their looming Super Rugby AU finals match.

 

Sonny Bill Williams is expected to be named on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Sonny Bill Williams is expected to be named on Tuesday. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Canberra officials believe the Roosters match would have been a 25,000 sellout had it been played outside the COVID social distancing crowd restrictions.

While a beefed-up crowd figure of 12,000 may be ambitious, Furner said: "We would love to get to 50 per cent capacity. We will lobby the Government. We want as many people in there as we can.

"I'm not sure it will get to 50 per cent but we will have that conversation. Clearly we have to abide by the chief health officer of the ACT Government. We will speak to her this week.

"If we could get it to 6000, that would be great, and 50 per cent capacity would be fantastic. We will wait and see. It is last year's grand final rematch.

"We have great games down here against the Sydney Roosters. Add Sonny Bill to the mix and there will definitely be a lot of interest in the game."

A 50 per cent crowd increase would ensure the game goes from a loss-making event for Canberra to a profitmaking match. The Daily Telegraph understands the break-even gate figure at GIO Stadium is about 8000.

The Raiders understand the power of SBW to draw a crowd. Picture: Tim Hunter.
The Raiders understand the power of SBW to draw a crowd. Picture: Tim Hunter.

"It is a real pity with the crowd situation at the moment because I'm sure we would get a full house because the Roosters are popular in the country regions too," Furner said.

"Hopefully the Government looks to increase the crowds by a little bit so the atmosphere will be as good as we could get."

If the 12,000 capacity request is denied now, Canberra hope to attain an inflated figure for what they hope will be a home final in October. The ACT's coronavirus restrictions have eased in recent weeks.

After the Roosters big win over Brisbane on Friday night, Robinson said Williams was almost certain to play the Raiders.

"The plan is to get him out there but we'll assess that Monday or Tuesday," he said.

Originally published as Plot to bend COVID rules for Sonny Bill Williams


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